It’s easy to download photographs, written content, videos and music from the Internet; however, the publishing rights to these works belong to the person who created them.
If someone in your ministry uses creative work for something sponsored by the ministry, the organization could open up risk, and be liable for copyright infringement. Do not create risk for your ministry, when it is easy to purchase copyright licenses.
An innocent volunteer webmaster or designer may use an image without considering the source. One church found out the hard way when they posted an image found on another church’s website and were contacted by the company that owned the image. Even though the church’s infringement was unintended and the image was removed as soon as they were contacted, the church had to pay a fine for copyright violation.
Don't assume that because the image appears in several places that the copyright holder isn't concerned with how or where the image is used. Always seek out the original source of a photo or other image and ask permission for its use. A good rule of thumb is: if the source cannot be found, don't use the image, or your church will be at risk.
When "Free" Isn't Free
A number of online stock-photo companies offer royalty-free images, or licenses for use. Royalty-free does not mean cost free, nor does it mean copyright free. It is simply permission, granted by the owner of the image, to use copyrighted materials without paying a royalty, or fee, for each instance of use.
To avoid risk and to remain honest and safe, ministries should always investigate the copyright status of content before using it. Simply giving credit to the creator of copyrighted works is not enough and isn’t a defense against the possibility of fines and legal fees associated with copyright infringement.
How Best to Comply
Use images or content owned by the ministry
Obtain the owner’s permission for the proposed use
Buy the license
Let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We have experts who can assist you with your questions.
Additional articles on copyright laws that may be of interest: